whole: day 14

The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.

Jerry Sittser

dazzle gradually

One of Emily Dickinson’s most famous poems begins ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant -/ Success in Circuit lies’.  As a way of approaching God, of knowingdarkly, it is the only way to talk about the Unknowable God.  In my contemplative photography project Acts of Daily Seeing ‘Tell it slant’ is also a way of seeingdarkly.  Dickinson goes on to say that ‘The Truth’s superb surprise’ is ‘too bright for our infirm Delight’ to take in all at once; she warns us that it has the power to blind.  There will be no sudden, once-and-for-all revelation until the Christ comes again.  Rather, knowingdarkly and seeingdarkly come together as the Spirit enlightens us as a ‘dazzle gradually’, where the light of revelation brings ‘explanation kind’. 

The Holy has compassion on me: whatever my impatience to know what’s going on, to hear and to see God’s clear direction for my life, God knows that any Wisdom will need to be imparted to me as a slow trickle which I can absorb more easily.  In other words, Wisdom, ‘Truth’, knowing and seeing God, comes through ‘the grace and kindness of the gradual … [since] we cannot cope yet with the fullness of the eternal now’, as Malcolm Guite puts it (‘Emily Dickinson’s desk’, Every Corner Sing (186)).  

Slant and Circuit, Compassion and Grace: this is a pretty good summation of why seeingdarkly and knowingdarkly is the balm for brokenness.  

In this way darkly is not a negative, partial, way of seeing due to a lack of faith. Nor am I being darkly out of some necessary protection for my weak, constrained mortality. Rather, knowingdarkly and seeingdarkly come together as a Grace-given way to encounter the eternal Whole.  

The Whole is always available to be seen, always available to be known, always seeking a loving relationship with me – in my here and in my now. It is up to me to decide if I will risk opening up to let knowingdarkly show me God as God wants me to see and hear God in this day.  

The miracle which awaits me relies on my acceptance.  It is up to me to accept that God is not merely a being outside of me whom I may, or may not, see or know very well: the Unknown God is also at home within me.  It puts a very different ‘slant’ on seeingdarkly and knowingdarkly if, as Robert Browning suggests:

….. to KNOW

Rather consists in opening out a way

Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,

Than in effecting entry for a light

Supposed to be without…

from Paracelsus I: Paracelsus aspires, Robert Browning

I begin to see an object when I cease to understand it.


imprisoned splendour. iPhone image.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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